How Black&White Moments celebrated Bangalore?s place as the fount of the country?'s rock music
From the buzz in the air it was clear this it was not just another night in this young, hip (as in hip-hop) performing arts venue, The Humming Tree ? one of the more popular stop in Bangalore?s nightlife hub, Indiranagar. The night of November 17, 2014 was an event that was a film-and-performance tribute to the legends of the city?s music scene. For those who didn?t know it, almost every major rock act in India?s rock music either cut their teeth in Bangalore, or for one reason or another, owe their fame to this cosmopolitan town.
They include performers like Biddu Apaiah (remember ?Kung Fu Fighting? and ?Disco Deewane??), legendary rockers Radha Thomas, Babu Joseph, Suresh Shottam and brother Ramesh Shottam of the Human Bondage, heavy metal pioneers, Millennium and musicians including Gerard Machado (who started as a 5-year old guitar player in the family band, The Singing Machados), guitar players Konarak Reddy and Gussie Rikh, sax player Rex Rozario? there really is a long list and Bangalore made them all famous. This evening was the initiative of Bruce Lee Mani, frontman of the Bangalore megastar rock band, Thermal And A Quarter, who brought together into one room, as many legends as would fit the bill. (And it was Black and White who foot the bill.) The venue was filled with a crowd, that we cannot put labels to; because it was part classic rock fans, part headbangers and all-Woodstock. Bruce Lee called up both legends and musicians to the stage, spoke about them, got them to speak about their memories and their music and then asked them to perform. After the obligatory but slick video presentation about Black&White Moments, Bruce Lee first called up saxophonist Rex Rosario, who expressed his nostalgia by performing a song he wrote for this father, ?Jakey?s Jive?, a rythmic jazz-oriented tune. (He followed it up with the song that Bangalore seems to consider its jazz anthem ?Take 5?, but the band could not bring it home and solos fell apart.) Following Rozario was the city?s best known blues guitarist, Gerard Machado, who opened with the Robben Ford version of the Ella Fitzgerald classic ?I Ain?t Got Nothing but the Blues?. He seamlessly led the bank into a non-bop version of Charlie Parker?s ?Billie?s Bounce?. Following him was perhaps the woman who most epitomises the 70s rock scene in Bangalore and was the subject of frequent Janis Joplin comparisons, Radha Thomas. As the singer for Human Bondage, she spoke of playing night after night in the not-too-upscale Chinese restaurant, Chin Lung (a 3rd floor walk-up on Residency Road ? it exists), to enthralled audiences, some of whom told her that they listened to the entire set from the St Patrick?s Church park across the street, because they could not afford Rs 10 for the noodle and soup meal. She performed the very first song she sang with Human Bondage, Sam Cooke?s ?Chains of Love?. Radha Thomas?s energy, despite having to hide a cold and cough remarkably well, enthused the audience and the backing band and the night became decidedly more electric as it set the stage for the city heavy metal legend, Roberto Narain, former drummer for Millennium. He let loose a burst of energy into the room by drumming to the jazz-fusion song ?Stratus? by Billy Cobham. This energy was carried on by TAAQ drummer Rajeev Rajagopal, who joined Bruce Lee Mani and the band?s former bassist Prakash K N to play their song ?In the Middle.?
The performances were interspersed with videos dedicated to Bangalore?s most famous live music locations like The 3 Aces Bar and the Rex Theatre and currently popular venues like Counter Culture and BFlat. The night took a turn into heavy metal territory with the next guest, vocalist and guitarist Nolan Lewis of the revered Indian metal band Kryptos. After his head-banging performance of the classic Metallica song ?Seek and Destroy?, Bangalore-based producer Chris Avinash mellowed things down with his soulful cover of ?Coming Back to Life? by Pink Floyd.
The music for the night then alternated between funky alt-rock and soulful acoustic and soft rock, with performances by Galeej Gurus, former-Motherjane vocalist Suraj Mani, session guitarist Tony Das, Lounge Piranha vocalist/guitarist Abhijeet Tambe, and lead guitarist Varun Murali of famous folk-rockers Swarathma. After introducing the last guest of the night, BFlat owner Arati Rao-Shetty, Bruce Lee Mani joined Rao and famed singer Vasundhara Das for a passionately rendered cover of The Beatles tune ?Hey Jude?. Black&White Moments succeeded in showcasing the journey of rock in Bangalore from its roots to its present. Bruce Lee Mani summned it up well: ?The audience should go away with the knowledge that the music scene in Bangalore is something that has been going on for many years and that these musicians have kept its flag flying. They are committed individuals who have fought against social pressures and difficulties with money to keep playing music. These musicians are an important part of the city?s culture, and that?s what Black&White Moments is all about.?
Article By: Sairaj Kamath
Photos By:Nikhil Kataria
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